I use a few apps regularly to help me shoot and compare cartridge ballistics. I am somewhat frugal when it comes to purchasing apps and tend to rely on free apps from ammo and scope manufacturers, but most long-range shooters will need to pay for a ballistics solution app when no app is available from a particular ammo manufacturer or if you are a reloader.
Winchester’s Ballistics Calculator is a great starting point. It’s free and comprehensive with Winchester’s line of ammo. I use this app a lot to compare bullet drop for rifle calibers at long ranges. For example, when zeroed at 200 yards, what’s the bullet drop at 400 yards for a 130-grain .270 Winchester versus a 150-grain .30-06 versus a 150-grain .308 Winchester versus a 150-grain 7mm Remington Magnum versus a 100-grain .243 Winchester? (That happens to be the distance for the 14″ gong at Putnam County Gun Club where I shoot.) The Winchester Ballistics Calculator is available on your computer or smart phone as an app. The app version compares three cartridges while the computer version allows you to compare five. Here is a screen shot from the calculator comparing popular deer cartridges:
Click on the image to enlarge it. You can also view and print a ballistics table from this screen using the full-site, computer version for future reference. One downside to the Winchester app is that you cannot adjust muzzle velocity, a key component for calculating trajectory. Listed muzzle velocities are typically from a 24-26″ barrel, common on hunting rifles. However, if you’re shooting a carbine, muzzle velocity could be 200-300 ft/s less.
The second ballistics app I encourage you to get is from the optics manufacturer Swarovski. I’m not a fan of Swarovski’s prices for sure, and I think Leupold’s VX-III product is as good, if not better. (If I was going to spend $2,000 on a scope, it would be a NightForce.) However, Swarovski offers a comprehensive library of ballistic coefficients and muzzle velocities for most cartridges, and you need that for the ballistics calculator below. For Winchester bullets you’ll need to use the Winchester app as it is not listed in the Swarovski app.
Select any scope in the first drop-down box. It doesn’t matter which one, but Swarovski makes you do this prior to seeing ballistic coefficient and velocity data. The image below shows the ballistic coefficient for Black Hills .308 168-grain Match Hollow Point to be 0.431 with muzzle velocity of 2650 feet per second. Data are available for most ammunition via Swarovski’s app.
Now that you have a library of ballistic coefficients and muzzle velocities, you need a ballistics calculator. My choice is iStrelok. (Don’t be fooled by the simple website. This app is great.) I like this program for many reasons, and here are the primary ones:
- Practically all scope reticles are available in the program. Not only do you see a ballistics table, you see the actual sight picture with your scope’s reticle showing you exactly where to hold the crosshairs. See below.
- When I bought it, the app cost only $4.99 for my iPhone.
- If your reticle is not listed, you can contact the Igor Borisov, the programmer, directly via the app, and he will add it! I’ve done this and was amazed at his response time.
- You can save up to 10 rifle profiles. This allows you to easily recall previously input information for your rifles without having to re-look-up ballistic coefficients and velocity data.
- You can adjust for wind speed, shooting angle, and atmospheric conditions (assuming you enter the atmospheric conditions for when you sighted-in your rifle, easily done next time you go to the range).
- Allows for FFP (first focal plane) reticles and SFP (second focal plane) reticles. Click here to learn about the difference between FFP and SFP reticles.
- You can input the target size which helps visualize the exact hold. The image below was entered as 14″ to replicate the 400-yard gong at Putnam County Gun Club.
With iStrelok, you know your exact hold with the specific cross-hair of your scope! Here is the information I input for a hypothetical shot at the 400-yard gong with a Burris MTAC 4.5-14x42mm scope having a G2B Mil-Dot reticle: distance = 400 yards, target size = 14″, 5 mph crosswind, 6° up angle, and Winchester .308 150-grain Power Point ammo:
If you find the ballistics app you’re using does not allow you to hit targets at distance, you should read this article on Sources of Ballistics Programs Inaccuracies. Using a ballistics program does not preclude you from getting familiar with your rifle at the range. If you can get the actual muzzle velocity of your cartridge measured using your rifle with a chronograph, that will go a long way to helping you get the best results since ballistic coefficients and bullet weight are readily available and constant for a specific cartridge.